Thai cave rescue: A timeline

Thai cave rescue: A timeline

Thai cave rescue
This undated handout photo taken recently and released by the Royal Thai Navy on Jul 7, 2018 shows Thai Navy soldiers in the flooded Tham Luang cave during rescue operations. (Photo: AFP via Royal Thai Navy) 

MAE SAI, Thailand: It was an extraordinary story that captivated the world - after more than two weeks trapped underground in the flooded Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand, all 12 boys and their coach from the Wild Boar football team were rescued alive. 

The three-day rescue mission was declared a success on Tuesday (Jul 10), with the Thai Navy SEALs and an international team of divers and experts hailed as heroes. 

The boys and their coach ventured into the cave on Jun 23 and spent nine harrowing days trapped in darkness until two British divers found them. It was just the beginning of their treacherous journey out of the cave. 

Here is a timeline of the efforts to find and free the group.

Saturday, Jun 23

The youngsters, aged between 11 and 16, and their 25-year-old coach enter the Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand during heavy rains after football practice.

Boys from the under-16 soccer team trapped inside Tham Luang cave covered in hypothermia blankets r
Boys from the under-16 football team covered in hypothermia blankets react to the camera in Chiang Rai, Jul 3, 2018. (Image: Reuters/Thai Navy Seal)

They are reported missing by a mother after her son does not come home that night. Local officials find bicycles locked to a fence and shoes and football boots close to the entrance.

Sunday, Jun 24

Park officials and police find handprints and footprints believed to belong to the boys. Relatives start to keep a vigil outside the cave.

Monday, Jun 25

Thai Navy SEAL divers enter the cave searching for the boys. Makeshift shrines are set up for parents to pray and make offerings as heavy rains continue.

The plight of the boys has electrified a Thai nation that has held its breath for a successful
The plight of the boys has electrified a Thai nation that has held its breath for a successful outcome to a challenging rescue kilometres inside one of the country's longest caves. (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung Thu)

Tuesday, Jun 26

Divers reach a T-junction several kilometres inside the cave but are forced back by rushing floodwaters that clog a narrow crevice near an elevated air pocket called "Pattaya Beach", where the boys are believed to have retreated.

Wednesday, Jun 27

A team of more than 30 American military personnel from the US Pacific Command arrive, including pararescue and survival specialists.

The journey to the area where the boys are trapped takes a skilled Navy SEAL diver about six hours
The journey to the area where the boys are trapped takes a skilled Navy SEAL diver about six hours. (Photo: AFP/Royal Thai Navy)

They are joined by three British diving experts who enter the cave but quickly retreat in the face of heavy flooding.

Thursday, Jun 28

The underwater rescue is temporarily halted after downpours bring fast-moving floods inside the cave.

Water pumps are shipped in to drain the rising, murky floodwaters and drones are dispatched to help find new vents in the cave roof.

Friday, Jun 29 

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha visits the site, leads a meditation and jokes and cooks with relatives, asking them not to give up hope.

Chan-O-Cha Thai cave rescue
Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha (L) speaks to family members of missing children and their coach camping out at Khun Nam Nang Non Forest Park in Chiang Rai province on June 29, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Lilian Suwanrumpha) 

Saturday, Jun 30

A break in the rain allows divers to reach further inside the cave but they are still a long distance from where the boys are believed to be.

Sunday, Jul 1 

Divers inch further into the cave, as an operating base is set up inside and hundreds of air tanks and other supplies are pulleyed in.

Monday, Jul 2

Finally, a miracle: the 12 boys and their coach are found alive late Monday evening about 400m beyond Pattaya Beach.

Crowds at the teeming rescue site cheer the good news, but attention soon turns to the difficult task of getting the boys out safely.

tham luang cave complex
The route to where the Thai boys and their football coach are trapped in the cave. (Graphic: Rafa Estrada)

Tuesday, Jul 3 

Much-needed food and medical supplies - including high-calorie gels and paracetamol - reach the boys as rescuers prepare for the possibility that they may remain in the cave for some time.

Wednesday, Jul 4 

Officials say the group are being taught how to use diving masks and breathing apparatuses. Teams pump out water around the clock as more rain is forecast for the days ahead.

Thursday, Jul 5 

In a sign of increased urgency, authorities say expected rains may force a complex rescue quicker than first thought. A team of bird's nest collectors scour the mountainside in search of new openings into the cave roof.

With fresh monsoon rains due, rescuers warn the window of opportunity to evacuate the boys is
With fresh monsoon rains due, rescuers warn the window of opportunity to evacuate the boys is "limited". (Photo: AFP/Ye Aung Thu)

Friday, Jul 6 

Tragedy strikes: a diver helping to establish an airline to the boys dies after passing out while returning from the chamber.

Saman Kunan's death raises serious doubts over the safety of attempting a rescue through the cave's cramped and waterlogged passageways.

READ: 'We won't let his life be in vain': Tributes pour in for Thai diver who died trying to save boys in cave

Thailand's Navy SEAL commander says oxygen levels inside have dropped. He warns the window of opportunity to free the youngsters is "limited", in the first official admission that the rescue cannot wait out the monsoon rains.

Saturday, Jul 7 

Rescue operation chief Narongsak Osottanakorn says it is "not suitable" yet to have the boys dive to safety.

A scrawled message emerges from the team's coach, offering his "apologies" to their parents.

Thai cave rescue letter from parent and coach relative
Handwritten notes from parents of one of the boys and a relative of the football coach. (Photo: PR Chiang Rai)

The head of the rescue mission says more than 100 vents are being drilled into the mountainside in a frantic bid to reach the boys.

Sunday, Jul 8 

The rescue operation begins. Authorities say they are racing against time and water, as more heavy rain is expected soon.

READ: Thai cave rescue: Foreign divers, SEALs begin operation for trapped boys, coach

READ: Day 1 of the Thai cave rescue operation, as it happened

Thirteen "world class" foreign divers and Thai Navy Seals enter the cave as the rescue begins.

Four boys make the hazardous journey out and receive medical treatment. Eight more boys and their coach are still in the cave complex. 

The rescue operation is put on hold as all the oxygen tanks in the cave are used up and need replacing. 

Monday, Jul 9

The rescue operation resumes at 11am (local time). 

thai cave rescue infographic

Four more boys are rescued in the nine-hour operation, and are in better condition than the four taken out on Sunday. 

Mission chief Narongsak Osottanakorn says the rescue operation is moving quicker than anticipated. 

READ: Day 2 of the Thai cave rescue operation, as it happened

The operation will resume on Tuesday, but whether they manage to get the remaining five out will depend on the night's planning and preparation. 

Tuesday, Jul 10

Thai cave rescue all 13 wild boars saved

All 12 boys and their football coach are out of the cave! Three Thai Navy SEALs and a doctor who had been with the boys are out safely as well. 

READ: The final day of the Thai cave rescue operation, as it happened

READ: Meet the Wild Boars and the heroes who helped bring them to safety

Mission chief Narongsak credits "the power of love" for making the rescue mission possible

"We've done what others thought was impossible for the first time in the world. This is our pride - a mission possible for Thailand," he says.

He adds that about 400 organisations had sent equipment to help with evacuation efforts. 


READ MORE | Full coverage of the search and rescue operation:  
https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/topic/Thailand-cave-rescue

Source: AFP/ad

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